What If I Hadn’t Called?

By Tibor Shanto

As most of you know I am a regular proponent of making cold calling part of your prospecting mix.  Beyond the logic of expanding your tool kit to include all things that lead to engagement, how you engage with your prospects will very much inform and shape the conversation you have with prospects.   The dynamics of an inbound call are very different than those on a call that interrupts and disrupts their day, and their current direction.

When I cold call someone, and get the appointment, I have an advantage over others.  Namely, the prospect has clearly indicated that they have an interest in the areas I raised in the initial cold call, but unlike those “57% of the journey buyers”, they haven’t started down a path.  This allows me, as the subject matter expert, to explore in a much more proactive fashion than with a buyer who comes to me with preconceptions and a “product” they are looking for already in mind.  Cold callers end up selling to a much more curious, and open-minded buyer.

The downside of that is that the buyer may recognize and desire the outcomes you can deliver, but have not thought about A) how to achieve those objectives; B) more likely to revert to, and embrace their current state, classic Status Quo.  The challenge then becomes how do you keep them engaged a forward focused, rather than staying put.

Clearly questions, driven by a market view, expertise and experience, are the tools of choice.  But despite our best efforts, complacency and the comfort of the “known”, is often stronger than the possibilities of change.  How we as sellers manage that moment, the moment when the buyer hits that fork in the road, to the left: change, progress and a sale for you; to the right: retreat, complacency, and no sale for you.

There a host of great questions one can ask while interviewing a prospect, but there is on that is particularly suited to prevent the buyer from choosing the road to the right, back to the same old, and encouraging them to embrace the left, and all the possibilities it brings to their business.  That question is:

“What would you have done about “this”, if I hadn’t called?”

While this does not always result in a sale or next step, it does break the log jam, and leads to a clear direction for you as a seller.

Beyond the simplicity of the question, what makes the question great, is that it takes the seller completely out of the picture, and allow the buyer to be the sole focus.

There is no product in the question, not mine, not the other, not any.  The focus is on the situation at hand, the buyer’s view of that situation, and, their propensity to act.  If they are not willing to act, product really doesn’t matter, does it? The question does not ask the prospect to pass judgement on product, it gets them to think.

They have to look inside, there was enough interest on their part to take the meeting.  If the meeting stalls, you need to find out if it is you, your approach, or your product, or is it something on their side, that has not been surfaced to this point.

I have had a range of answers to this question, some were good, and accelerated the discovery, at the other extreme, it brought the opportunity to a screeching halt.  But in all instances, I knew where I stood, and what I had to do next, even when the buyer didn’t.